Dem 48
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GOP 52
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Alabama Certifies Doug Jones' Victory in Senate Race

Late Wednesday, alleged child molester and Senate candidate Roy Moore (R) tried a Hail Mary move. He asked a federal judge to block certifying the winner of the special election for what was once Jeff Sessions' Senate seat. At 1 p.m yesterday, the court rejected his request. At 2 p.m., Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill certified that Doug Jones (D) won the election and was now officially a senator-elect. He will be sworn in next week.

The election was about as bitter and partisan as any in memory. At first, the RNC refused to provide funding for Moore on account of multiple credible allegations that he molested teenagers when he was in his thirties. The RNC pulled the plug because (1) It didn't want to be associated with a child molester and (2) The chairwoman, Ronna Romney McDaniel, thought Moore could win without her financial help. When polls began showing Jones ahead, the RNC decided that having a child molester in the Senate was better than having another Democrat there, and turned the money faucet back on. But by then it was too late. A huge turnout by black voters, 96% of whom voted for Jones, sealed Moore's doom. Once Jones is seated, the Republican majority in the Senate will be reduced to 51 to 49, making it very difficult for the GOP to get anything done next year, other than confirming judges on straight party-line votes.

A side effect of this election is that it is going to encourage Democrats to run in very red states and districts next year under the motto: "If we can win in Alabama, we can win here." Of course, that is not really true. Jones' victory was based on two factors that are not likely to be present in many other places, namely, an extremely toxic Republican candidate and an electorate that was 30% black. Many races may have one of them, but both components were essential for Jones' win. Interestingly enough, If Steve Bannon's favorite, Chris McDaniel, beats Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) in the Mississippi Republican primary, the Magnolia State might just qualify, especially since black voters there are undoubtedly aware of what happened next door in Alabama. (V)

Alabama Reveals Roy Moore's Fellow Losers

The circumstances of the senatorial election in Alabama—many Republicans did not want to vote for a member of the GOP who was accused of child molestation, and they did not want to vote for a Democrat of any type—led to an unusually large number of write-in votes, and an unusually large number of throwaway write-in votes. Now that the results are official, the state has released the write-in totals. If somehow all of the candidates whose names were actually on the ballot had been disqualified, then your winner would have been...Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), who collected several thousand write-in votes. Following him was Lee Busby, the retired military officer who announced his candidacy late as a GOP alternative to Moore. In third place was Alabama football coach Nick Saban, and in fourth was former senator Jeff Sessions. A few other politicians also piled up a hundred or so votes, including Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Condoleezza Rice, Gov. Kay Ivey (R-AL), former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, and libertarian Ron Bishop. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) even got some votes from citizens who are apparently fans of cloning.

Beyond the people who could be considered serious options (or semi-serious, in the case of Saban), it was open season. Some of the popular options, by category are listed below (* = not currently available for service, by virtue of being dead):

  • Sports figures: Former Auburn basketball player Charles Barkley, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, former Auburn football/baseball player Bo Jackson, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T. J. Watt, former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, Olympian Jesse Owens*, former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning

  • Celebrities: "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson, actor/director Clint Eastwood, musician Jimmy Buffett, businessman Warren Buffett, actor Ben Affleck, actor Matthew McConaughey, comedian Steve Harvey, musician Kid Rock, actor Chuck Norris, musician Michael Jackson*, radio commentator Paul Harvey*, actor Richard Burton*, restaurateur Colonel Sanders*

  • Fictional characters: Star Wars villain Kylo Ren, Star Wars villain Emperor Palpatine, Mad magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman, Mickey Mouse, Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, Bozo the Clown, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Kermit the Frog, Pepe Le Pew, Santa Claus, Snow White, Snoopy, Charlie Brown, SpongeBob SquarePants, Batman, Scooby-Doo

  • Notorious individuals: John Merrick (the Elephant Man)*, Sarah Palin, former Alabama governor George Wallace*, Beelzebub, Steve Bannon, O.J. Simpson

  • Confederate Leaders: The ghost of Stonewall Jackson*, President Jefferson Davis*, General Robert E. Lee*

  • Presidents: George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan*, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Benjamin Harrison*, Andrew Jackson*, Jimmy Carter, Thomas Jefferson*, Barack Obama

  • Saviors: Jesus Christ*

  • Editorial comments: "honesty and integrity," "both are an embarrassment," "dumb asses," "the will of God," "neither," "none of the above," "a better choice," "not listed due to graphic language," "any other Republican," "a normal Republican—please," "Jackson—my dog," "No Moore Jones," "Your Mom," "no to both men," "Is this the best we can do?"

This list is mostly silliness, but it certainly shows how very much some Republicans hate the idea of voting for a Democrat. Undoubtedly, if the situation had been reversed—a disgraced Democrat running in a blue state—we would have seen similar lists, albeit with Oprah Winfrey and Beyoncé in place of Phil Robertson and Kid Rock. (Z)

Virginians Thought Another Gore vs. Bush Couldn't Happen in Their State

Ballot madness is not limited to Alabama though. After the nightmare of the Gore vs. Bush election in Florida in 2000, where the secretary of state had to deal with irregular chads, hanging chads, and pregnant chads, Virginia wanted to make sure that nothing like that could ever occur in the Old Dominion. So, the Virginia Dept. of elections wrote a 15-page booklet giving numerous examples of poorly marked ballots and instructions for dealing with them. Dozens of examples of valid and invalid ballots are given, with specific directions about which ones to count and which ones not to count. For example, the following ballots are all allowed and must be counted:

Valid ballots

The booklet also gives numerous examples of ballots that may not be counted, like these:

Invalid votes

Unfortunately, none of the examples exactly matches the disputed ballot in the 94th district race for the Virginia House of Delegates, in which one voter filled in two bubbles but also drew a slash mark through one of them and then in the race for governor filled in one bubble and then put an "x" through it. That one sloppily-marked ballot will determine control of the House of Delegates. Ultimately, it may be the Virginia state Supreme Court that has to figure this one out.

The justices may want to pay special attention to example f on page 14, shown above (for Lieutenant Governor). Here a voter has filled in the gap for two candidates and then put a slash through one of them, presumably indicating "I don't mean this one." That ballot may NOT be counted, according to the instructions. The disputed ballot in the 94th district is not exactly like that, but is very close. There, too, a voter marked two choices and drew a slash through one of them, just as in ballot f above. It is hard to imagine that two votes with a slash through one of them is not valid when the format is filling in an arrow but is valid when the format is filling in a bubble. But in politics, logic and consistency often take a back seat to partisanship. (V)

Ducey to Arizona Republicans: Stop Jockeying for McCain's Senate Seat

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been stricken with glioblastoma, a cancer with a very low survival rate, and one that took the lives of his former colleague Ted Kennedy and his former colleague's son, Beau Biden. This means that McCain's Senate seat may soon come open, either due to his death or his resignation. An open Senate seat represents an opportunity for ambitious Arizona Republicans—if they can get appointed as the temporary placeholder, they have a leg up when it comes time to elect a permanent replacement in November 2018. This being the case, there is much motivation to make one's availability known, and to pitch one's self to Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) as the ideal choice. On the other hand, it is a bit gauche to maneuver openly for a seat that's not yet open, held by a man that's not yet dead. So, a careful balance is needed.

It would seem that some would-be senators have not been able to achieve that balance, and have been a bit too aggressive in making their plays for the empty seat, because many members of the state party are aggravated at the insensitivity to McCain and his family that is on display. Among those who are irked is Ducey himself, who sat for an interview with a Phoenix radio station and said:

I have found it a little bit off color, some of the prognosticators and pundits who have been making these predictions as to the senator's outcome. I think people should be praying for him and rooting for him. To the politicians out there that have been openly lobbying for this position, they've basically disqualified themselves by showing their true character.

While he did not name names, it is widely understood that he was referring, in particular, to Rep. Paul Gosar (R), former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R), and former Rep. Matt Salmon (R). If this is correct, then all three of these folks could be badly damaged going into 2018, regardless of what happens with McCain. (Z)

Nearly Half of Republicans Believe that Trump Repealed "Obamacare"

A new Economist/YouGov poll of 1,500 Americans showed that 44% of Republicans believe that Donald Trump repealed Obamacare. Another 38% believe he didn't and 17% are not sure. It hasn't been repealed, of course. All that has happened is that the tax for not buying health insurance has been set to $0. Democrats did slightly better in the poll, with only 27% thinking that the ACA has been repealed. If this poll is even close to being true, it is a sad commentary on how much Americans know about what is going on in the country. (V)

Trump Does Not Seem to Understand Global Warming

Donald Trump has a fair bit of spare time on his hands right now, which means lots of tweets. Though he and others in his administration have previously rejected that global warming is happening, on Thursday he apparently had a change of heart, and even went so far as to suggest that global warming might be a good thing:

Trump is misunderstanding the difference between weather (a short-term phenomenon) and climate (a long-term phenomenon), and is also failing to recognize that unusually low temperatures are also evidence for climate change.

Of course, it is well within the realm of possibility that Trump actually knows what he's talking about, and that he also knows that the base does not. After all, he "misunderstood" the Obamacare repeal, and now almost half of the voters in his party have also misunderstood, to the President's benefit (see above). So, there could be method to the madness. (Z)

Trump Does Not Understand International Trade

On the other hand, it's possible that there is no method, and that it's just madness. Or, at very least, ignorance. Case in point: Trade policy. When Donald Trump met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House in March, the meeting did not appear to go very well. And on Thursday, some more details leaked out about the meeting. Specifically, that Merkel was compelled to give Trump a bit of an impromptu lecture in trade policy. Trump kept pressing for a bilateral trade deal with Germany, and Merkel had to explain to him—nearly a dozen times—that, as a member of the EU, Germany cannot not make such deals without including the other 27 members. She also had to explain to him the history of Ukraine, and why they play a key role in European politics.

There was no reason for Trump to feign ignorance in a private discussion with the German chancellor. Further, the White House aides who leaked this new information confirmed that The Donald found Merkel's explanations "humiliating." That sentiment is, frankly, understandable. After all, understanding how the EU works is pretty basic stuff, and certainly shouldn't have to be explained multiple times. Stories like this are why it is hard to be certain exactly what is going on when Donald Trump misunderstands global warming, or Obamacare repeals, or the tax bill, or anything else. If he struggles to grasp the basics of trade policy, what else does he struggle to grasp? (Z)

Newton's Third Law Also Applies to Politics

As every physics major knows, Newton's third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This also applies to politics. The newly passed tax law encourages American companies to take their profits stored abroad and bring them home at a reduced tax rates. However, other countries don't like the idea of capital leaving their countries and some of them are producing that equal and opposite reaction.

China, in particular, has decided to exempt American companies from Chinese taxes if they invest in specific sectors encouraged by the government, including railways, mining, technology, and agriculture. So, American companies with large amounts of money in China (ahem, Apple) are going to have to crank up their spreadsheets to see who is offering the better deal, China or America. If the bean counters decide that they are better off keeping their money in China in order to get the tax break there, then there will be less money coming home than the Republicans had counted on. The consequence of that is that less money will be collected in taxes and the hole in the budget will be even bigger than the expected $1.5 trillion. (V)

Trump Hits 46% Approval in Rasmussen Poll

Since the GOP tax bill passed, Donald Trump's approval rating in the daily Rasmussen Poll has been on a mild upswing, jumping from 40% just before the bill was passed to 46% yesterday. Of course, that number comes with some caveats. The first is that the 2.5-point margin of error means the move might not be as big as it seems. Second, Rasmussen has a strong GOP house effect, and consistently has Trump's ratings higher than any other pollster. Third, even if these first two things weren't true, 46% is still pretty mediocre. The approval ratings of Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan rarely got that low, and the ratings of Dwight D. Eisenhower (low of 48) and John F. Kennedy (low of 56) never did.

Despite all of these things, Trump took to Twitter to celebrate:

If one did not look closely at the graphic, one might be left with the impression that Trump had cured cancer, or secured world peace, or persuaded NFL players to stop kneeling for the national anthem.

In non-Rasmussen polls, Trump's numbers remain poor. In Gallup's daily tracking poll, for example, the President is at 38%, which is absolutely terrible. To support that assessment, we turn to a noted expert in the analysis of Gallup's numbers, namely one Donald J. Trump:

Incidentally, while 39% is bad (and 38% is, of course, even worse), neither is a record. The actual record is Harry S. Truman at 22% in February of 1952. Richard Nixon (24%), George W. Bush (25%), Jimmy Carter (28%), George H. W. Bush (28%), Lyndon Johnson (35%), Ronald Reagan (35%), Gerald Ford (37%), and Bill Clinton (37%) also did worse than 38% at their lowest points. (Z)

Trump Physical Scheduled for January 12

Donald Trump has promised to undergo a full physical, and to release the results, something that has been customary for presidents dating back to FDR. Now, we have a date for the examination: January 12. Even if we allow a few days for lab tests to be conducted and for reports to be written up, the results should be known by the end of January.

Since Trump appears to be in generally satisfactory physical condition, the thing that everyone will be looking for is the results of his neurological tests. The doctor who will conduct the physical is Dr. Ronny Jackson, a navy rear admiral who has served as the official presidential physician since 2013. In other words, he's not on Donald Trump's payroll, so he's not going to be goaded into writing (or signing) a letter that declares The Donald to be the most neurologically-sound person ever elected to the presidency. On the other hand, Jackson is subject to the same privacy rules as any other doctor—he can't release any test results or answer any questions without Trump's approval. So, if there are no neurological test results, and the White House says something like, "We don't know—the doctor must have decided they were not necessary," then there will be nobody who can legally contradict them. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec28 Trump's Lawyers Plan to Call Flynn a Liar
Dec28 Moore Claims Fraud in Alabama
Dec28 Blue Staters Rush to Pay Property Taxes
Dec28 McConnell and Ryan Are Not on the Same Page on Entitlement Reform
Dec28 Obama Beats Trump as Most Admired Man of 2017
Dec28 How Some Political Predictions Turned Out
Dec28 No, Trump Has Not Signed More Laws Than Any Other President in His First Year
Dec28 Bannon Cuts Ties with Nehlen
Dec28 China Dogs Trump
Dec27 Congress Actually Passed Nearly 100 Laws in 2017
Dec27 Trump's Next Goal: Infrastructure
Dec27 D.C. Court of Appeals Rejects Challenge to Trump's Voter Fraud Panel
Dec27 Universities Are Preparing for a Violent Year Ahead
Dec27 Royal Wedding Could Become Political
Dec27 Virginia Elections Headed to Court
Dec27 Another Bad Poll for Republicans
Dec26 Democrats Are Going to Run in Almost Every House District in 2018
Dec26 The Top 10 House Races to Watch in 2018
Dec26 To Impeach or Not to Impeach, That Is the Question
Dec26 Menendez Isn't Drawing Serious Competition
Dec26 Who Is Kirsten Gillibrand and What Is She Up to?
Dec26 Utah Paper Blasts Hatch
Dec26 A Really, Really Bad Poll for Republicans
Dec25 Trump Reportedly Told Friends "You All Just Got a Lot Richer"
Dec25 Trump Has Visited His Properties over 100 Times This year
Dec25 Why Wasn't Black Turnout in Alabama Much Lower?
Dec25 Judge Deals Setback to Voter Fraud Commission
Dec25 An Analysis of Doubleheaders
Dec25 Flake For President?
Dec25 Haley Appears to Have Been Pranked
Dec25 Trump Killed Christmas
Dec24 Trump Builds His Wall, But out of Red Tape
Dec24 Trump Takes Shots at FBI
Dec24 White House Staff Could Soon Look Very Different
Dec24 Bannon for President?
Dec24 EPA Staff Fleeing in Droves
Dec24 Marine Corps Commandant: "Bigass Fight" Coming
Dec24 Trump Coin Screams "DONALD TRUMP"
Dec23 Trump Signs the Tax Bill
Dec23 Trump Aides Talk Him Out of Holding News Conference
Dec23 Tax Law Could Change How Many Americans Work and Live
Dec23 Trump's Political Advisers Argue with Each Other
Dec23 Conservative Groups Are Planning Massive Marketing Effort to Sell the Tax Plan
Dec23 Ethics Case Against Trump Thrown Out
Dec23 More People Approve of Mueller than Disapprove
Dec23 Polling, Trump Style
Dec23 California Will Be Ground Zero for House Battles in 2018
Dec22 Thad Cochran May Resign Next Year
Dec22 Republican Control of the Senate is Hanging by a Thread
Dec22 Congress Votes to Kick the Can into January